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Chancellor Wants to Help Struggling Schools By Establishing Partnerships Between Principals

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Chancellor Carmen Fariña says she has a new approach for helping struggling schools by establishing partnerships between principals rather than bringing in outside advisors, the Department of Education's first pilot program under the new administration. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña likes to say the answer to the problem is already in the room. What she means, of course, is that any issue that comes up has probably already been faced, and solved, by someone else within the city's vast school system.

Finding those answers sometimes requires actual rooms, so on a recent Friday morning, administrators and lead teachers from three middle schools gathered in the library at I.S. 34 in Tottenville.

The idea is that schools facing a challenge or issue are partnered with a school that has already figured it out. It's the first initiative Fariña launched as chancellor, with 21 schools this spring and dozens more next fall.

"This is the work, and this is the collaboration that I would say that my colleagues would also agree that we've been waiting for," said Kelly Nepogoda, principal at I.S. 5. "We're very excited."

They meet once a week, alternating between schools. In this grouping, the mentor is M.S. 88 in Brooklyn, and the partner schools are I.S. 34 in Staten Island and I.S. 5 in Queens.

"We haven't had the opportunity to go visit other schools, especially in other boroughs, so to be able to go to Brooklyn and to go to Queens to see what's going on in these other schools has been a really enlightening experience," said Amy Janicke, assistant principal at I.S. 34.

"These are well-thought-out visits," said Ailene Altman Mitchell, principal at M.S. 88. "We know what we're going to do before we do it, so we're having a conversation before and many conversations afterwards."

Mitchell said structured collaboration can benefit all school leaders tremendously.

"We leverage our resources at our school, but it's taken us 10 years to do it, and some of the new, my partners, they're going to be able to do what it's taken me 10 years to do in less six months," she said.

The program is set to expand in September but officials said they won't be able to accommodate most of the schools that want to participate, as 253 applied for just 70 spots.

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